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A primordial culture

In this surreal photo-essay, Toronto artist Rajni Perera responds to both the current and the ancient.

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson

Just six months into the new decade and we’ve already witnessed a global pandemic, along with mass protests against anti-Black racism. As we continue to navigate this moment, there is an undeniable shift occurring in the way we know and understand our world. When the evening news offers little solace, who better to guide us through these surreal times than artists? 

Rajni Perera is a Sri Lankan-born, Toronto-based visual artist who creates vivid and innovative work across various creative media. Her mixed-media portrait Fresh Air was recently acquired by the AGO, and is part of the Traveller series which focuses on the sovereignty and migration of diasporic people over time and into the future.

In this photo essay, captured by photographer Omii Thompson and styled by Tala Berkes, Perera displays a number of functional sculptural works from her catalogue, while also doubling as muse and model. With each image she provides a few lines of prophetic narration, commenting on the events of today, while harkening back to the themes of futurism and indigeneity often found in her work...

By Rajni Perera  

Moving is all our blood knows about. Transition and trajectory become like different ends of the same instruments’ numerous facets in a slow dance with many arms.

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson  

The places we loved are gone now but we can build arc reactors for love and hadron colliders for peace. It all happens in a new place which is also an old place, a primordial culture again.

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson 

Dust of the old world is under our boots with a shielded grin at the sky because we know we’re on the way. The ones who came and went before are smiling back from underneath us in a stairway of hopeful eyes to the stars. 

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson.

Mothers covering children covering mothers. The air burns strangely all the time. 

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson 

After the last great wars the water made us different. Before the off-world gods were born, the divine births here were sent off to teach with their bodies. 

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson.

No residence is one residence. No thought is one thought. Seeing the tangle is an entire life’s work. 

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson. 

Nothing was left for us here. We had to build our palace into everything atop the remains of the old world that said no to us.

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Rajni Perera. Image by Omii Thompson. 

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